He’s been compared to the likes of Alan Jackson and former Belmont University classmate, Brad Paisley, but singer/songwriter Brandon Kinney certainly has a style he can call his own. He takes a unique look at southern living through the beer goggles of where stereotypes meet politically incorrect. His hit song, “Hicks,” has peaked at No. 9 on the Texas Regional Radio Chart, and he’s written songs for Lonestar, Randy Travis and Willie Nelson. Country Music Pride chats with Kinney about his debut album, “Smells Like Texas,” and his up-and-coming acting career.
CMP: Can you give some background on “Smells Like Texas”?
BK: I made the kind of record I wanted to make; something that ran parallel to the way my friends and I joke around and hang out. It’s something we can sit around and drink beer and listen to. When I’m with my buddies, nobody wants to hear a bunch of love songs. It works well with [college] crowds. It’s turned out a lot of fans have been college-aged students, but it’s reached all ages. We’ve had a lot of older people who’ve loved the songs, too. It keeps with their country reach and different things.
CMP: What would you call your style of country?
BK: Country music with a smile. [“Smells Like Texas”] is not a comedy record, and it’s a little bit more than a regular country record.
CMP: Where do you get your sense of humor?
BK: From many things; I’ve got a bunch of jokers in my family. I think I’ve always been that way — a goof off.
CMP: You’ve written about a lot of characters in your life. Are any of them about you?
BK: It’s mostly people I’ve been friends with in my hometown. I’m pretty much playing the observer [on the album].
CMP: Do you wish you kept any of the songs you wrote for other artists like Lonestar, Willie Nelson and Randy Travis?
BK: It doesn’t bother me at all. I was a big fan of Randy and Willie growing up. To be on records like that where those guys have been my heros — it’s an even bigger payoff than if I was the guy releasing it. I write so many songs I can’t record them all. Thats my bread and butter. Writing is what I started out doing first, so being an artist is the icing on the cake; it’s part of what I do. I can always write a song for me.
CMP: You co-wrote “Boots On” with Randy Houser, who is now up for a Country Music Association award for Video of the Year for that song. How did he end up recording “Boots On” instead of you?
BK: He recorded it about four times, I think. And when he was with MCA Records, he recorded it twice. He recorded it again with Universal South and then he played it out (live). When I was with Capitol for a while, we looked at doing that song; but it looked like Randy had it, so I had other songs that I could do. I’m glad I did. He might have decided not to put it on his record if I had done it. He owns it.
CMP: What happened with Capitol Records?
BK: It was just one of those things. I was over there for two years, but it was just a timing thing. I met with the label head, and they were pretty slammed with the roster they had, so it just looked like I’d be waiting for a while. I was playing shows for a while and I wanted to release the record, but there were no definite dates to come out. That’s the best way I could keep on trucking. They’re great people; I love Capitol, they have a great staff and I loved being over there. It was just a time thing.
CMP: What was it like acting in the Jackie Mason movie “One Angry Man”?
BK: It was fun. They had seen my “Country Moments” video on YouTube, and they were looking for a “redneck” that looked better than Brad Pitt (I’m kidding). It was a Friday when I got the call and found out, and I got the script on Saturday and shot on Monday in Newark, New Jersey. It was really cool. I had never done a movie before, and now those doors are opening for me. I just kind of played me. They gave me a different name, but at the same time, I walked in there as the guy from the South and they ate it up. I don’t know if I’m an actor or If I’m allowed to play myself. It’s cool. I’ve been a fan of Robert Duvall and Sam Elliot, and they always played themselves. As long as I don’t have to act like I’m some kind of mob boss …
CMP: What are you working on right now?
BK: Well, right now I’m writing full time and working the record in Texas. My single, “Hicks,” is out there and broke top 10 on the Texas chart. We’ve been cooking away, starting to meet with major record labels. Pretty soon we’re going to be touring college circuits in Texas, and in October I’ll be performing with Gary Nichols in Alabama. For that we’ll write during the day and perform it that same night at a show — it’s a little acoustic gig we’re doing together. In May 2010, I’ll also be working on another movie with Jackie Mason.